“Wait a second. You’ve been calling him ‘he,’ like a friend, but what’s his name?”

“He doesn’t have a name.”

“Don’t joke, Everyone has a name.”

“Then let’s see– How about Ultraman?”

-Ultraman, Episode 1

 

Godzilla is not the only giant stomping around Tokyo, nor is that limited to monsters. Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects director for the original Godzilla, later founded his own company specifically to develop the art form. Tsuburaya Productions would go on to produce many special effects monster and hero shows, but one hero would rise above them all.

In 1966, the alien superhero Ultraman burst onto color screens for the first time. Fighting off giant monsters and extraterrestrial attacks with the help of the Science Patrol (usually with Thunderbird-like model planes and spaceships), the series is known for its groundbreaking use of special effects, model sets, and storytelling.

This was the birth of the modern tokusatsu genre, spawning countless other heroes such as Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and later Power Rangers. Ultraman has taken many forms over the years, but every entry carries the torch of the giant of light. There have also been numerous other entries over the years, but rarely have they been available to an English audience. Now with so much content available, there has never been a better time to get into Ultraman. A new film, Shin Ultraman, a reimagining of the original series from famous filmmaker and animator Hideaki Anno, was set to be released this year. Production has stalled due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ultraman #1-5 “The Rise of Ultraman” by Kyle Higgins & Mat Groom (2020 – Current)

A Marvel reboot of the original series, join Shin Hayata and the United Science Patrol as they protect the world from titanic Kaiju. One thing I like about this incarnation is that both Ultraman and Hayata share the same body. Instead of Ultraman taking over Hayata until the show ends, both characters have to find a way to work together to save the planet. The love the creators have for the franchise is clear throughout each issue, and it has some fun alternate covers.

FIND IT NOW
ULTRAMAN by Eiichi Shimizu (Manga 2011 – Current, Anime 2019 – Current)

From the creator of Linebarrels of Iron comes this modern reimaging of Ultraman. Branching from the original Ultraman tv series, the story follows high schooler Shinjiro, the son of Shin Hayata and inheritor of the power of Ultraman. Instead of growing giant, our hero wields a suit of Iron Man-like power armor to fight deadly alien criminals and covert operatives. Like Men in Black and The X Files, a major part of the series concerns the politics of aliens hidden on earth, some trying to get by in peace while others plan the planet’s downfall. While the setting is grim, Ultraman (and later Ultramen) will continue to fight to protect the peace. Check it out on Netflix through our Roku collection.

WATCH IT NOW (on a Roku)
S.S.S.S. Gridman (2018)

A reimagining/continuation of Gridman (another giant hero produced by Tsuburaya) from Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Promare). Starting a short film for the Japan Animator Expo (Gridman: Boys invent great hero), it eventually morphed into an anime series following high schoolers whose city is continuously attacked by Kaiju, but only they remember each attack. The series is a love letter to both the Ultra series and mecha anime (especially Transformers). Everything from the choreography, monster designs and setting show a clear and heartfelt love of the source material. There is now a sequel series, S.S.S.S. Dynazenon, following another character from the original series. Check it out on Crunchyroll, which we currently have on our Roku collection.

WATCH IT NOW (on a Roku)

Other Releases

TokuSHOUTsu

Shoutfactory has several Ultra shows available for streaming, including the original series and many newer ones. It has the first modern Ultra show that I finished, Ultraman Ginga (2013), a light-hearted entry that marked the 50th anniversary of Tsuburaya Productions.

Tsuburaya Pro YouTube

Tsuburaya Productions has been very proactive in making old and current Ultraman content available to international audiences. The most recent series, Ultraman Trigger, is the second to be simulcast with English subtitles on their page. Follow them for the most up-to-date news and content.